FBI issues connected car hacking warning

Drivers must ensure their vehicles' software is up to date, agency warns

Vehicles are "increasingly vulnerable" to being hacked, the FBI and US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have warned drivers via a public service announcement.

The warning refers to research demonstrating various remote exploits that allow hackers to gain control over vehicle functions through vulnerabilities present in wireless communications. While these issues have been addressed, the announcement stated, other vulnerabilities remain.

The bulletin read: "While not all hacking incidents may result in a risk to safety such as an attacker taking control of a vehicle it is important that consumers take appropriate steps to minimise risk.

"Therefore, the FBI and NHTSA are warning the general public and manufacturers of vehicles, vehicle components, and aftermarket devices to maintain awareness of potential issues and cybersecurity threats related to connected vehicle technologies in modern vehicles."

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Third-party devices connected to vehicles, such as mobile phones and tablets connected via USB, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, pose a particular risk to security, the agencies said.

If a hacker gains access this way, they added, it would be possible for them to manipulate critical control systems or be able to access user data stored on the vehicle.

Last year, researchers from the University of California demonstrated a way for hackers to access an insurance black box fitted to a 2013 Chevrolet Corvette, gaining control of the brakes and windscreen wipers by simply using a text message. Later, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced it would update almost 8,000 of its cars in the US in order to fight cyber criminals.

To minimise risk, the FBI and NHTSA recommend that drivers ensure all software is up to date, as well as taking care when making unauthorised modifications.

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